Sri Lanka An interesting country with friendly people

This story is based on a 12 days photo workshop with Kairos Workshops in the central and southern part of the country. I had never been to Sri Lanka before and that was the main reason for attending this workshop. We started in the capital Colombo and traveled around by our own minibus, visiting several national parks and most of the main attractions on Sri Lanka.


Up to the 16th century, Sri Lanka was a divided country ruled by numerous kings. At the end of the 16th century and during the 17th century, the Portuguese ruled the country. Then the Dutch took over and ruled until 1815 when the British captured the country from the Dutch. Independence was finally granted in 1948, but the country remained a Dominion of the British Empire until 1972. The name of the country was then changed from Cylon to Sri Lanka.

Unfortunately, Sri Lanka is most known for the civil war between the government troops and the Tamil Tigers, a war that lasted for 25 years, from 1983 until 2009. More than 100 000 of civilians were killed. The war was devastating for the development of the country. Luckily, the tourists have started to see this fantastic country now and the economy is steadily improving.


Colombo, located on the west side of the island, is the capital of Sri Lanka and is the largest city with a population of 5,6 million. Due to its large harbour and its strategic position along the East-West sea trade routes, Colombo was known to ancient traders 2,000 years ago.

Colombo is by all means worth a visit, but from a photographic point of view, Colombo is not where you spend most your time. Kandy, for example, is a much more interesting and charming city.

The City Hall of Colombo.
A Hindu Temple with the tulip Tower in the background. Although the majority of people in Sri Lanka are Buddhists (around 70 %), around 13 % are Hindus. These are mainly Tamils.
Buddha Statue
The Independence Monument in Colombo
The traffic in Sri Lanka is not quite like what we are used to in western countries, but it seemed to work. After all there was a system in the chaos. The tuk-tuks have a big share of the vehicles in the streets.
It is hard to get married.
Taking the train is an experience.
Street sellers are common in Sri Lanka. Here is a man selling light bulbs.
The new times. Colombo is in rapid development.
A Taylor shop on the street. Wherever you go, people are smiling and happy.
The ambulance service is impeccable
About 10 percent of the population are muslims. The boy was not quite pleased with the photographing, but after he got a pen everything was fine.
Colombo by night

National Parks

Sri Lanka has several big national parks. First, we visited Minneriya National Park located close to Dambulla in the central part of Sri Lanka. The main attractions here are wild elephants, but you may also find reptiles and all kinds of birds.

Elephant family
Hawk Eagle on watch. They normally sit on dead treas like this to have a clear view. The head can turn 180 degrees, giving them a complete view of the area.

Yala National Park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka, bordering the Indian Ocean. The park covers 979 square kilometres and was one of the first two national parks in Sri Lanka, having been designated in 1938. The park is best known for its variety of wild animals. It is important for the conservation of Sri Lankan elephants, Sri Lankan leopards and aquatic birds.

Monkey watching the view
The Yala National Park is an eldorado for bird watchers.
This crocodile was on the bank just a few meters away from the water buffalo on the picture below, but they seemed not to bother each other.
Water buffalo in early morning sun
Peacocks were everywhere.
Elephant having his rubdown. First they submerge in mud and then the find a tree to scratch against. Systematicly, they rub each part of the body.
Sceptical lizard.
This is Sri Lanka`s national bird, called junglefowl (Gallus lafayettii)
A leopard has captured a deer during the night and is now eating it.
Always on guard.

Tea Production

Tea production is one of the main sources of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka and accounts for 2% of GDP. Nuwara Eliya is considered to be the most important location for tea production. It is at an altitude of almost 1900 m and is known for its cool climate – the coolest area in Sri Lanka. We stayed at Blackpool Hotel, a former tea plantation. The population is mostly Tamil tea workers. The salaries for the tea workers is very low and therfore the living condition for these people is rather poor..

A typical tea plantation with tea workers houses on top.
At a tea factory.


Photographing stangers has not been my strong side, actually, I hated it. I was challenged by our workshop leaders Torkil and Tone to go out and do just that; take pictures of strangers.

The first man I met, a Tamil worker.
I passed some ladies at a street cafe, that could been a good object, but I just went on. I forced myself back and explained my mission. To make the story short, one of them had been a photo model and was more than happy to be photographed and she encouaged the others. My fear for taking pictures of strangers was gone! My advice is: be polite. Take no for a no if somebody don't want to be photographed. There are always somebody else to ask.
Next: Girl ready for her guitar lesson in Kandy, the second larges city in Sri Lanka.
Now things are getting easier; this tuk-tuk driver saw I took pictures of the girl and wanted a picture too.
This boy really worked hard for the money. We were driving up a steep hill on a winding road. Almost at the bottom of the hill he stood selling flowers. We just drove on since nobody wanted flowers. A bit higher up he was there again, he had taken a shortcut straight up and was ready to sell. The same thing happened several times and after four times we felt pity for him and bought some flowers. He was completely exhausted when we stopped. Running barefooted in the wood in a steep terrain is not for everybody, but he was rewarded at the end.
People in action.

I was lucky enough to become acquainted with a family close to our hotel in Nuwara Eliya and was invited into their house to take pictures. This was a great experience for me and an eye-opener to see how people can live on a very low budget and still be happy and friendly.

This is Pritnikka in the kitchen.
During the photo shoot, Haruni the youngest daughter and her big sister Pritnikka wanted to change to their best dresses. And here comes the most amazing story; Hanuni`s medals and the cup are prizes from national competitions in piano play and they are not even close to have their own piano! This shows how talented these people are and how far you can get even with limited financial resources. If somebody with money to spare out there would support this young talent, I am sure it would be highly appreciated. Please let me know.
Haruni with medals and diploma from national piano competitions. She has all reasons to be proud of herself.
Family picture. The father was not present this evening.
Making morning coffee. The room was filled with smoke from the wood stove.
The son getting ready for school
Two families were living in the same house, but in different apartments.
Scenery from Nuwara Eliya
Blackpool Hotel in Nuwara Eliya and the house I visited in the foreground. Most families have a kitchen garden where they grow basic vegetables.
The Darseni Magtote family. I visited them early in the morning.
I was invited to see how tea leaves are picked. Before the work starts for the day, they pay for their family and friends that they must have a good and happy day.
The stick is used to keep the trees in level.

Places of interest

Sigiriya, a is an ancient rock fortress located near the town of Dambulla in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. The name refers to a site of historical and archaeological significance that is dominated by a massive column of rock nearly 200 metres high.

According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle the Culavamsa, this site was selected by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 CE) for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The capital and the royal palace was abandoned after the king's death. It was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century. (Ref. Wikipedia.)

About half way up
After about 1500 steps, a good rest is earned .
Ruins from the palace

Dambulla cave temple, also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla is a World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka.

Dambulla is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. The rock towers 160 m over the surrounding plains. There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding area. Major attractions are spread over five caves, which contain statues and paintings. These paintings and statues are related to Gautama Buddha and his life. There are a total of 153 Buddha statues, three statues of Sri Lankan kings and four statues of gods and goddesses. The latter include Vishnu and the Ganesha. The murals cover an area of 2,100 square meters.

Prehistoric Sri Lankans would have lived in these cave complexes before the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka as there are burial sites with human skeletons about 2700 years old in this area, at Ibbankatuwa near the Dambulla cave complexes. (Ref. Wikipedia.)

At the south coast

I came across this fishing village at the end of a beach near the Yala National Park. Actually, it was not allowed to visit them as a tourist, but I did not understand that before afterward. Anyway, the fishermen were friendly and seemed to enjoy my visit. I noticed it was only men in the village and was told that this was not a permanent village, but temporary housing for the fishermen from September to March each year.

Life in the fishing village
Stilt fishers. This is an old fishing method on Sri Lanka, but now it is most for tourists taking pictures.
Whale safari. We were lucky enough to see a blue whale coming up.
The south coast of Sri Lanka is very popular for surfing. Surfers form all over the world are coming here.
Tourists and locals in perfect harmony.
Interesting construction. This boat is in daily use as a fishing boat.


The trip exceeded most of the participants` expectations and all of us came home with lots of more or less good pictures and good memories from Sri Lanka. Thanks a lot to Torkil Færø and Tone Solholm with Kairos Workshops who gave us inspiration and guidance in photography. https://kairosworkshops.com Explore Travel AS who did a fantastic job with planning and executing the trip to everybody satisfaction. www.exploretravel.no And last, but not least, our guide during the entire trip, Chanaka Sanjeewa, who gave us tons of information about our destinations and Sri Lanka in general and also fixed small and bigger issues during the trip. chanaka.vslk@gmail.com

Thank you for watching my presentation. If you like it, please push the Appreciate button. You will see more of my work, please visit my website www.arneskinlo.com

Created By
Arne Skinlo

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a copyright violation, please follow the DMCA section in the Terms of Use.